What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.


  • Digital Fishers The Sciences

    Digital Fishers

    Looking for a few hundred thousand citizen scientists to help analyze 15-second deep-sea videos

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Rod Dobell, Senior Research Associate DATES: Ongoing
  • Space Warps [Zooniverse] Everyday Science

    Space Warps [Zooniverse]

    Help spot rare gravitational lenses in the distant universe

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Marine Debris Tracker The Sciences

    Marine Debris Tracker

    Help scientists map trash on coastlines and waterways

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jenna Jambeck, Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Notes from Nature The Sciences

    Zooniverse: Notes from Nature

    Help make information about natural history collections available via the Internet

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Arfon Smith, Director of Citizen Science DATES: Ongoing
  • Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (PING) The Sciences

    Precipitation Identification Near the Ground (PING)

    Help NOAA researchers better understand determine what kind of precipitation—such as snow, soft hail, hard hail or rain—is falling and where

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  • BioCurious DIY BioPrinter Tech

    BioCurious DIY BioPrinter

    Join BioPrinter community project

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Eri Gentry, Executive Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers The Sciences

    Roadkill Survey for Road Bikers

    Help ecologists better understand the impact of roadways on wildlife by submitting information about road kill

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gregg Treinish, Founder/Executive Director DATES: Ongoing
  • Space Hacker Workshop Tech

    Space Hacker Workshop

    Learn how to do "space on the cheap" at this two-day event May 4-5, 2013

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Edward Wright, Chairman DATES: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - Sunday, May 5, 2013
  • FrogWatch Canada The Sciences

    FrogWatch Canada

    Help Canadian herpetologists understand (and hopefully correct) declining frog populations in their country

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  • Project MERCCURI The Sciences

    Project MERCCURI

    Collect microbial samples on Earth and compare them with microbes found on the International Space Station (ISS)

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Jonathan Eisen, Professor DATES: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - Sunday, September 1, 2013
  • Cicada Tracker The Sciences

    Cicada Tracker

    Help biologists study the next emergence of these locustlike insects in the eastern U.S.

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: John Cooley, Research Scientist DATES: Monday, April 15, 2013 - Saturday, August 31, 2013
  • Hummingbirds @ Home The Sciences

    Hummingbirds @ Home

    Track, report and follow the spring hummingbird migration to better understand how climate change is impacting hummingbirds

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gary Langham, VP and Chief Scientist DATES: Friday, March 22, 2013 - Saturday, June 15, 2013
  • SubseaObservers The Sciences


    Help assess the health and abundance of the mid-Atlantic scallop fishery

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Art Trembanis, Associate Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • Snowtweets The Sciences


    Tweet data about snow depths in your area

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Richard Kelly, Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Management DATES: Ongoing
  • IceWatch USA The Sciences

    IceWatch USA

    Help researchers study how seasonal differences in the ice cover of lakes, rivers and other areas impact ecosystems

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Melinda Hughes-Wert and James Wert DATES: Ongoing
  • Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti The Sciences

    Zooniverse: Snapshot Serengeti

    Help researchers identify animals photographed in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park—from the safety and comfort of your computer

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Craig Packer, Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • RinkWatch The Sciences


    Climate science and sports collide as researchers track outdoor skating days for signs of environmental change

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Colin Robertson, Assistant Professor DATES: Ongoing
  • <i>National Geographic</i> Genographic 2.0 The Sciences

    National Geographic Genographic 2.0

    Citizen scientists can learn more about their genetic makeup and history, helping National Geographic researchers in the process

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Spencer Wells, Explorer-in-Residence DATES: Ongoing
  • Play with Your Dog The Sciences

    Play with Your Dog

    Help researchers investigate canine behavior by sending video of time spent playing with your furry friends [DEADLINE: MARCH 31, 2013]

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    PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Alexandra Horowitz and Julie Hecht DATES: Ongoing

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